We've been playing with rice for awhile now. Every time I get out our little bowl Silas gets so excited and wants to immediately sink his hands into it. Except that over the months as I've swept up that same cup of rice to use again and again, it's gotten quite dirty and my little guy really has outgrown such a small amount. He's ready to move on to bigger and better things, so I decided that it was high time Silas had a dedicated place to do all the digging, scooping, and pouring that he loves to do. A different kind of experience (and a different kind of mess) than either sand or water, we now have a table just for rice play.
Luckily, I was able to use mostly found objects and only had to purchase the rice and the hardware to put it all together. I started with an under-the-bed storage container that my parents bought for me almost 15 years ago (!) when I was leaving for college. The four legs were salvaged off of a shelving unit, but you could easily use legs from a thrifted footstool or small table. The cheapest rice I could find was at my Asian market where it was 75 cents a pound. I bought the 40 pound bag (because it was the cheapest per pound), but only used about half of it in the table. So, we have plenty to refill...or eat. Finally, I used 12 each of bolts, washers, and nuts, costing just over three dollars, making the grand total for the project around $20. Silas and I started putting it together this afternoon and he was playing with it by dinner time.
You may have to improvise slightly as there will be variations in your legs and hardware, I'm sure. I started by using a sharpie to mark the holes of the legs on the bottom of the container.
Then, using a drill bit that was just a hair smaller than my bolts, I drilled 12 holes, three for each leg.
I put the bolts in through the inside of the container so that they would be flat inside and stick out the bottom. The fit was pretty tight, so I used the electric screwdriver to put them all through before attaching any of the legs. These bolts are actually way too long, yours can and probably should be shorter. I'm just terrible at measuring, so these are what came home with me from the hardware store. They really only need to be long enough to go through the thickness of the bin, the plate of the leg, and with just enough room to screw on the nut.
Now, put the legs over the bolts and hand-tighten the nuts. When everything is in place tighten all the nuts with a wrench.
Flip the whole thing over, add your rice, and commence playing! There are several things that I really love about this. I love the height that it's at. Silas likes to stand while playing and this lets him move around very easily. I love that with the lid on (which also keeps out buggies and water) it transforms into a table on which he can build with blocks or play with cars. But mostly, I love to watch the way he plays with the rice.
We have it on the porch right now, but it can easily be moved inside when the weather turns cold. I'm trying to figure out what sort of drop cloth that I'd like to put under it...something that I could use to easily reclaim spilled rice and return it to the bin. Maybe a little mat made out of some outdoor/waterproof fabric?
My heart melts with the absolute delight with which he immerses himself in his play.Whether it's digging with a shovel or with his hands, he approaches both with gusto. One of his favorite things is to sink his hands beneath the grains and have papa bury him almost up to his elbows. Squeals and foot stomps of joy.
I will be honest with you, this is a messy activity. Be prepared to vacuum or sweep often. I try to demonstrate the "rules" of the rice table for Silas when we play together and I reinforce them verbally while he is playing alone. Expect, "The rice stays in the bin, please!" or some variation thereof to be said almost constantly. But, it's worth it to see the smile on his face and to know what a world of good all that sensory play is doing for him.